Let me begin with this statement to clear the air hopefully once and for all. The purpose of my many years of research and writing especially about Uganda is not to undermine NRM’s efforts – as some have suggested – but to draw lessons about what has gone right and wrong so that appropriate adjustments can be made. Before I started publishing I had communicated my concerns regularly since 1986 with senior government officials in the cabinet, public service and public sector. So they knew my thinking but chose to ignore it. I have focused on President Museveni – not as a person – but as a policy maker who has dominated and served as spokesperson on Uganda’s political economy affairs (I have also commented on statements by the First Lady – not as a person – but as a public official. Ugandans should understand that when you become a public servant, you should expect that what you say and write will be commented upon, hopefully constructively. So when you get comments that make you uncomfortable don’t complain or use surrogates to do it for you which they don’t even do well. When the heat becomes unbearable, the best thing to do is to step down).
Radio Munansi English Program Jan. 26, 2013.
This is Eric Kashambuzi communicating from New York.
Greetings to you all: fellow Ugandans at home and abroad, friends and well- wishers.
I am glad to be back on Radio Munansi to continue the discussion of issues in Uganda’s political economy under the theme “Together we shall succeed”.
I mentioned political economy to signify that political decisions determine economic direction and economic forces affect politics. Thus, politics and economics are inter-linked.
I also chose the theme “Together we shall succeed” because I honestly believe that by working together we have a better chance of unseating NRM whose record of failure is there for all to see. I have been thrilled to see that the idea of working together has been received warmly by fellow Ugandans on face book among others.
Since the beginning of 2011, I have been active in Uganda politics. I have told you who I am, where I was born and grew up, where I was educated and what I have done in my career. I presented my profile in three parts which are posted at www.kashambuzi.com for easy reference.
The United Democratic Ugandans (UDU), an umbrella organization of political parties and organizations at home and abroad opposed to the NRM government, expresses its deep concern about endless investigations and torture of democracy advocates in Uganda. There are Ugandans that have been languishing in detention or on bail under extremely difficult conditions because the government is still conducting investigations. There ought to be sufficient information before a person is arrested and if additional information is needed it should be gathered within a reasonable time. And if there is insufficient evidence the person should be set free. In Uganda it appears that a person is arrested first and lengthy investigations follow. This approach creates a lot of social, financial and psychological hardship and torture on individual members concerned and their families, relatives, friends, well wishers and places of work.
Uganda has entered an enlightenment phase in which an increasing number of citizens are demanding full expression of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The government needs to adjust to this new environment of protest and refrain from arresting people demanding correction of democracy and good governance deficits. If Ugandans are arrested in the name of maintaining law and order or national security then they should appear in court as soon as possible.
That Uganda is in deep crisis is no longer in dispute. There is a political crisis; there is an economic crisis; there is a food crisis; there is a health crisis; there is education crisis; there is moral crisis; there is environmental crisis; there is employment crisis; there is housing crisis etc, etc. These crises are upon us in large part because of poor leadership. How did it happen? We need to examine the leadership style of President Museveni since 1986.
Museveni came to power in 1986 believing that he was the only visionary, the only intellectual and a God send leader born to rule with his tribe’s people. Museveni thought he was on top of the world and would govern Uganda according to his own instincts. He thought running a country was the same as commanding a guerrilla war. But he forgot that he had prepared for the 1981-85 guerrilla war since the 1960s and had accumulated experience. He did not realize nor would he listen that running a country particularly at that difficult moment had different rules. Before becoming president Museveni – according to his own words – had worked for a few months in the office of the president in charge of nomadic people before Obote was overthrown in 1971. So he assumed the presidency without experience in the art of governing a country or managing an organization. Then he made the following blunders which should be avoided by the next administration.
Winds of trouble are gathering speed and are about to blow like a tornado across central Uganda over who Bachwezi are and who constructed the earthen works including those at Ntusi and Bigo in central Uganda. This quarrel would not have arisen if Europeans had not created the confusion. Through European race theories, blacks (Negroes) were described as people without civilizations. And as uncivilized, blacks had no history and darkness in which they lived was not a subject of history. So when Europeans visited what later became Uganda and found magnificent civilizations, they manufactured an explanation. They decided that these civilizations including earthen works in central Uganda must have been the work of Europeans. They looked at the physical features of Africans and found that Bahima had similar facial resemblance like them especially long and thin noses. They quickly concluded that Bahima were white people who created civilizations including earthen works. Europeans went further and explained that Bahima turned black because of strong tropical sum but were still lighter skinned than Negroes. From that time on Bahima and later their Batutsi cousins in Rwanda and Burundi and Batutsi/Bahororo in short lived Mpororo kingdom assumed that they were more intelligent and born leaders. Negroes were judged mentally inferior, physically unattractive and born to scratch the soil to earn a living and work for born leaders in return for protection. As uncivilized people blacks were reduced to crop cultivation. And Bahima were strictly cattle keepers, a symbol of civilization. Through indirect rule, colonialism enhanced the power of control of Bahima and Bahororo over Bantu people in southwest Uganda, a position they lost at the time of independence. They fought a guerrilla war to restore their dominance which has been extended to the entire country. Then came research findings that turned everything upside down or inside out whichever expression you prefer.
Some people –Ugandans and non-Ugandans – close and not so close to me have wondered – directly and indirectly – why I have decided to oppose Museveni when there is no chance of winning because he is powerful at home and abroad. Besides I or someone else could get hurt. Some have even questioned my motive.
This is the first time in Uganda’s political history that I have actively campaigned. I have chosen to participate in order to defeat Museveni in his re-election bid for another five years. He has been president for 25 years already. During this period, as outlined below, the welfare of the majority of Uganda citizens and the environment has deteriorated.
My education and profession were influenced greatly by the injustices of the colonial indirect rule system which was an extension of a repressive feudal system of lords and serfs (rich and poor) in Rujumbura county of Rukungiri district in southwest Uganda. The chiefs and their families lived very well at the expense of the poor who produced goods and services. Through tribute, taxes and free labor the poor peasants toiled for the comfort of the chiefs. Most of the nutritious food (goat meat, chicken, eggs, beans, fruits etc) was consumed by chiefs. Heads of households would disappear for months to work for tax money leaving their wives behind toiling to keep the family alive.
Through his actions Museveni behaves as though he has never understood his role as head of state. He acts as though he is representing western interests in Uganda particularly imposing structural adjustment and joining the west on major issues. He also acts as though he is a representative of Bahororo people in Uganda who are increasingly positioning themselves to govern Uganda for a long time. He sees other Ugandans as a nuisance and despises us as people below his dignity. This comes out clearly from his statements and his body language. These actions that have defined Museveni’s twenty five year presidency should disqualify him for re-election.
Museveni has managed to hang on because of his repressive style of governance with tacit endorsement of western interests and not because he is loved by the people of Uganda except Bahororo. Western interests in Uganda will be served better by letting Museveni go – without western support Museveni would not have lasted a couple of years.
A former African head of state remarked that when an African leader is popular with and praised sky high by Europeans it means that by and large that leader is taking care of European interests more than those of his/her citizens.
Apart from areas of white settlement, Britain (unlike Portugal) chose to give independence to African countries without much struggle in order to keep them colonized and continue to serve British interests. It did so by influencing the choice of leaders or governing political parties. If a chosen leader digressed, he would be removed and replaced by a more compliant one.
In Uganda UPC/KY coalition and the rise to power of Obote were supported by Britain. When relations between Obote and Britain got strained Obote was removed and replaced by Amin, a gentle giant easy to do business with (Jon Abbink and Gerti Hesseling 2000 and New Africa February 2001).
As we have detailed elsewhere and posted on www.kashambuzi.com, Museveni was chosen by western powers including Britain in the early 1980s to topple Obote and UPC government (actually toppled by Okello in July 1985) because Obote was not trusted to do business with (Peter Phillips 2006 and Vijay Gupta 1983). Obote was chased out twice in 1971 and 1985 because by and large he put Uganda interests above Europeans! Amin was supported until Tanzania troops and Uganda exiles chased him out of the country in 1979.
A close friend of mine with many years of accumulated experience advised me on four things. First, a message must be repeated (orally or in writing) until it is properly understood. He explained that listening and hearing or reading and following a story are important but they must lead to a full understanding of the story and its implications on society. Until that understanding has been attained, the story must be repeated. Second, when a conversation is about a forest it should not be allowed to degenerate into a talk about trees. When you focus on one or two trees, you miss the larger picture. Third, during economic and political hard times, people tend to be short-term focused and miss the long-term dimensions. Fourth, three treasures must always be protected and used properly: population, land and institutions. Let us examine the fourth point with respect to Uganda.
Since Museveni came to power, Uganda has become a laboratory to test new ideas (Sebastian Mallaby 2004). Uganda provided laboratory facilities for shock therapy structural adjustment experiment starting in 1987 after it had been rejected in Ghana in 1986 as very problematic (Paul Nugent2004). The people of Uganda have paid a very heavy price. Uganda has now become a center for testing genetically modified crops (GM) and birth control.
Many Ugandans and some non-Ugandans especially from the great lakes region believe – rightly or wrongly – that Museveni will do everything to get reelected to avoid being dragged to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. He will also ensure that he gets over two-thirds of NRM candidates elected so that Parliament rubber stamps his decisions. Then the following will likely occur as mentioned in conversations so far.
1. The defeated Ugandans will adopt a passive resistance strategy that will further cripple the economy that is already in bad shape with over 55 percent of Ugandans living below the poverty line.
2. Museveni will basically retain his present core cabinet of ‘yes men and women’ who will continue to tell him what he wants to hear. He will likely create a new ministry of petroleum or expand the current ministry of energy and appoint one of his closest relatives turning oil revenue from a savior to a curse for Ugandans.